What are Your Employees Really Thinking? The Value of Focus Groups to Solicit Feedback

In today’s workplace, most organizations recognize the importance of collecting feedback from employees. Yet, a common challenge we often hear from employers is ensuring that the feedback received is open, honest, and accurate.

Many think that the only way to assess the opinions and experiences of employees is to conduct a survey, often referred to as an “employee engagement survey”. It goes without question that employee surveys have many quantifiable benefits, however, they often lack the qualitative insights underlying the data. Understanding the ‘why’ behind the data is just as important- and that’s where focus groups come into play.

 

What is a Focus Group?

 

In essence, focus groups are guided exploratory discussions on a particular topic with a group of participants. They provide an opportunity to discuss employees’ thoughts and experiences openly; in a way that often enriches the depth and quality of feedback for the employer.

 For HR professionals and business leaders, focus groups are a powerful tool to gather input and to check the pulse of the workforce. They are particularly beneficial when you are trying to:

  • Uncover an employee’s thoughts and opinions about an important topic (such as mental health or diversity and inclusion)
  • Evaluate employee satisfaction
  • Uncover why employees act and/or behave in a certain way
  • Uncover what recommendations employees might have to address a problem/challenge
  • Generate ideas to make workplace initiatives successful

 

 

The Value of Focus Groups to Solicit Feedback

 

Nothing is more valuable than connecting with those at the heart of your organization and making them feel heard. This is particularly important for millennials, the largest generation in today’s workforce, who not only want to be heard, but also consulted.

Focus groups offer a great method of direct interaction with employees that can help shed light on specific areas of concern and provide much more value than a simple yes or no.  You may assume that you already know what your employees are thinking, yet, we all know the danger of assumptions.  An in-depth focus group can help you to re-assess and adjust your organizational priorities in response to employee feedback.

Focus groups are a great tool when used in combination with other research and data.  Perhaps your employee survey or exit interview revealed people were unhappy with leadership or their professional development – a focus group is an excellent way to build upon findings and pinpoint the “why”.

Alternatively, focus groups can also be used as the initial method of gathering input for a new initiative. Too many times organizations will rush to implementation and skip the critical part of consultation.  One of our clients utilized focus groups prior to implementing an employee engagement survey to ensure that it was designed with questions that were important and relevant to its’ employees.

 

 

How a Third-Party Consultant can Help?

 

The facilitator plays a critical role in leading a focus group and is ultimately responsible for the outcome of data.

Managers and leadership should not facilitate the session, nor should they join in the discussion when the group consists of their own direct reports.  In our experience, when management and leadership are present we notice that candid feedback is limited and employees are often afraid to criticize their manager or the organization in fear of repercussions.  In times when feedback from management is warranted, a leadership group session should take place at a separate time.

Our recommended practice is to hire an experienced outside consultant to facilitate discussion with upmost anonymity. An experienced facilitator will have the skills to probe dialogue and ensure that participants feel comfortable communicating openly, and will ensure that the discussion remains on track and without bias.

 

Importance of Follow-Up

 

Regardless of the approach used to obtain the feedback, it is most important that there is follow-up with employees.  Remember to thank employees for their time and re-iterate that all information shared during the session will remain anonymous. When the time comes, follow up and share the decisions that were made as a result of their feedback.  If the results move in a different direction than the feedback provided by employees, be sure to explain the “why” behind those decisions and illustrate how those outcomes are anticipated to impact the workplace.

 

Don’t Know Where to Start?

Pivot’s HR Consultants are experienced focus group facilitators. Our services can be tailored and personalized to offer flexible solutions in a variety of work environments.  Give us a call today at 604.916.6199 and let’s discuss how we can use focus groups to solicit feedback in your workplace.

 

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